The All-Star break. I love the sound of it. Other professional team sports have their all-star games (generally boring) but nothing compares to the romance and excitement of Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic.
For me, it is the high-water mark of summer. I vote online and try to be as objective as a Yankees fan can be. Then I sit back and wait for the game. This year I’ll watch with something quite special at my side. More on that in a sec.
A few years ago when the game was held at Yankee Stadium I wrote a blog about the number of players, coaches and announcers present who had shared their faith in the pages of Guideposts and on Guideposts.org. I think I counted eight. It made me very proud.
This year the great Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, playing in his 14th and final All-Star Game before retirement, will be the focus of much attention (note to Derek: we’re still waiting for your Guideposts story). He deserves it. Derek is everything a professional athlete is supposed to be.
In fact it was Derek Jeter who turned me into a Yankees fan after I’d lived in the city for more than a decade. I’d become disenchanted with my boyhood team, the Detroit Tigers, a love of which I shared with my mother, who sent me the Detroit sports pages every week. I wrote a number of Daily Guideposts devotionals about our lifelong passion for the Tigers. But with the devastating onset of Mom’s Alzheimer’s those deliveries were fewer and fewer, and the fortunes of our team likewise faded.
Maybe on some level I associated Mom’s decline with the Tigers. At one point it looked like the Tigers wouldn’t even make payroll. It was pitiful to watch. There was even talk of moving the team out of the Motor City, right around the time we moved my mom into an Alzheimer’s unit. It was a painful and confusing period in my life. Nothing felt right in the world.
Then to the big ballpark in the Bronx, just one borough away from where I lived in Manhattan, came the sensational rookie Derek Jeter (a kid from Michigan, no less) and all the championships that followed. The Tigers fell to second in my baseball affections. I bought a Yankees cap and jammed myself onto the subway for the trip up to 161st Street. I’d found a new hometown team. I was a New Yorker. A Yankees fan.
Today, though, I got a very sweet reminder of my past love from a reader named Donna Marsh…a vintage pen and pencil set fashioned in the shape of little baseball bats with the Detroit Tigers logo. Donna explained that they were a gift from a favorite math teacher back in 1947 who had saved her from flunking algebra, and that they were old and worn even then.
“How old they are I do not know,” she wrote. “Like you, I love baseball. Being in the winter of my life I have been looking for family members to pass on some of my treasured items to but no one is a baseball fan much less a Tigers fan. But I feel like you are family so I have chosen to pass on this pen and pencil set to you.”
I felt one of those pangs you get, the ones that seem to go deeper the older you are. Donna hadn’t realized I’d forsaken the Tigers for a new team but she reminded me of that old love, those days and nights I spent at Tiger Stadium on Trumbull Street, the last game I took my mom to, those regular bundles of sports pages the mailman somehow jammed into my mailbox. Of summer nights with a radio under my pillow listening to Ernie Harwell call a game. Of watching the All-Star Game with Mom and a pitcher of ice tea and being able to root for everyone.
So thanks, Donna. Here’s to midsummer night classics, baseball and love that never dies.